Understanding Empathy And Why We Need It

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• Empathy is about the ability to take another person’s perspective. It is similar to “theory of mind,” which is the human capacity to understand another person’s state of mind and comprehend that it is totally different from our own. Empathy is not only theory of mind but “theory of heart”—to feel other people’s emotions—and it’s hardwired into our brains and bodies.

• Empathy is not about any particular situation, but about a unique individual’s perspective on that situation.

• Though it is an innate human ability, it is in decline. We need to consciously cultivate and develop empathy.

• There are three kinds of empathy: Cognitive empathy is empathy based on knowing or understanding what someone else is going through, on an intellectual level.

• Emotional empathy is the ability to actually share and take some part in the emotional experience of another person.

• With compassionate empathy, we put our feelings of understanding and sympathy to good use. We try to resolve problems, remove burdens, or inspire insights that will help progress the situation.

• In an empathic interaction, move from cognitive to emotional to compassionate empathy.

• Sympathy is like seeing someone is in a hole, but standing on the outside looking in with concern. Empathy is like getting down into the hole and relating to the person side by side, with them.

• Too little empathy is a problem, but so is too much. Becoming overwhelmed in another person’s world means we lose perspective—as well as the ability to be of any practical help to them.

Show notes and/or episode transcripts are available at https://bit.ly/social-skills-shownotes

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Check out the podcast for shownotes and/or the full transcript.